The Pawnbroker's Daughter by Maxine Kumin

The Pawnbroker's Daughter

Maxine Kumin left an unrivaled legacy as a pioneering poet and feminist. The Pawnbroker s Daughter charts her journey from a childhood in the Jewish community in Depression-era Philadelphia, where Kumin s father was a pawnbroker, to Radcliffe College, where she comes into her own as an intellectual and meets the soldier-turned Los Alamos scientist who would become her husband; to her metamorphosis from a poet of light verse to a poet of witness; ...

Details The Pawnbroker's Daughter

TitleThe Pawnbroker's Daughter
Release DateJul 13th, 2015
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Womens, Biography

Reviews The Pawnbroker's Daughter

  • Jimmy
    Maxine Kumin finished her memoir just before she died. I cared little for her life story, but I enjoyed her tales about writing poetry. "In the fifties, women, along with people of color, were still thought to be intellectually inferior, mere appendages in the world of belles lettres." Writing "light verse" served her well. It pressed her into "the exactitude of rhyme," and working in rhyme allowed her to trot some of her "dark poems out of the c...
  • Dov Zeller
    A brief memoir. It wasn't remarkable but interesting and sweet. I especially loved reading her poetry in the context of life circumstances, and I appreciated the way she finally began to feel at home in the world when she moved to a house in the country (and hung out with a lot of quadrupeds). The opening sentences are some of my favorite:"When I was growing up in the 1930s, the first four words I learned to read were Need money? See Pete. In tha...
  • Alex Kudera
    The early section on life in Philadelphia drew me in.
  • Lois R. Gross
    It was unusual, at one time, for a Jewish family to live in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, but that is where poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Maxine Kumin started out. From this unusual starting place, she also achieved the coveted goal of attending Radcliffe at a time when quotas on Jewish students were enforced and most nice Jewish girls in Philly would have aspired to Penn. Kumin, however, was a groundbreaker. She became a poet...
  • Kaye
    Maxine Kumin’s beautiful memoir, “The Pawnbroker’s Daughter” is an enjoyable read. In a brief 162 pages she elegantly presents the story of her life journey -- growing up in Philadelphia, going to Radcliffe, beginning to write poetry, meeting her husband-to-be, Victor, and their eventual buying and developing farmland. The focus and most interesting part to me were the stories of Maxine, Victor and their 3 children living their dream in r...
  • M.
    This memoir is a very slight one. It reads like a rummage through boxes stored away. Or, to use another image, it's like a scrapbook of images, some of them very sentimental, put together for the family. (Maxine Kumin died last year.) She's a better writer than this memoir indicates. Although I am not a particular fan of her poetry, I've always admired the woman who left the city behind to move to an old farm in New Hampshire, and I've always adm...
  • Mark O'brien
    Maxine Kumin made poetry accessible to many of us non-intellectuals with her understandable yet captivating poems about nature, family and life. This memoir talks of her upbringing and long, rich life, including snippets of her experiences as a woman/mother/poet in the 1950s and 60s. Some publisher actually made her get a letter from her husband's employer attesting to the fact that she actually wrote the poem she submitted. Tufts University let ...
  • Susan
    The title of this book is misleading. I would have been greatly interested in much more detail about what it was like to have a pawnbroker for a father. That's why I bought the book. Instead I got a memoir of a woman poet and who lived on a small farm. However it was pleasant.
  • Martha
    Would like to read more by this author. Poetry for example.
  • Judy
    It was a list of facts in black and white. Good poet not a good writer.
  • Doreen Mackinlay
    Maxine Kumen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and her memoir is a wonderful read. It is beautifully written, she tells about her life as a great friend would do. Highly recommended.
  • Susan Emmet
    Although four of five chapters/essays in this slim memoir were previously published, I'd never read any of them. Glad I am to do so."Need Money? See Pete" chronicles her childhood and struggle to deal with and leave a rather problematic life in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, one not known for its inclusion of Jews. A bit ashamed at their rather luxurious life secured by (in her mind) a dubious but successful life as a pawnbroker, her fat...
  • Susan Oleksiw
    Maxine Kumin is an astute observer of the nature of human feelings beneath the gloss of urban life. Her poems reflect her life on a New England farm after growing up in Philadelphia and living outside Boston for several years. Her brief memoir, composed of five short essays (four previously published) distills the essence of her life experience and views. Writing a memoir invariably includes references to one's family and friends. Few writers mak...
  • Peggy
    The poet Maxine Kumin passed away last year. Fortunately, she completed this memoir shortly before her death. Originally from Philadelphia, she and her husband first lived in my hometown in Massachusetts, but soon bought a rundown farm in New Hampshire. During her time on the farm, she had many horses and dogs. I was actually brought to tears when she described losing her animals to sickness and old age. Horrifying to me was her struggle to be ac...
  • Iva
    I found the initial picture of her life --growing up in a Jewish family in depression-era Philadelphia--quite compelling. Her college experience at Ratcliffe and early marriage during WW II, raising 4 children were unremarkable, and then she became a renowned 20th century poet! This achievement is not much explained or explored, though she mentions, briefly, having a close relationship with Anne Sexton where they would phone each other to read th...
  • Alicia Tompkins
    Gem of a book. This short beautifully written yet simple and direct memoir by a Nobel and Pullitzer prize winning poet was a true find. Maxine Kumin drolly shares her life with you through a series of essays. I loved them all --from her wartime correspondence with her future husband stationed in Los Alamos, to herself as a young mother, to her time on the treasured PoBiz farm in New Hampshire. She accomplished so much yet seemed to be able to car...
  • Leslie Soifer
    Kumin has written a beautiful memoir of her life; her style is simplicit but exciting and her poems are exquisite like shiny pebbles. Her high acclaim is her poetry which became her life's passion but was not forgotten by mutual dreams with her family like a country farm home in New Hamphshire; breeding horses, taking in rescue dogs, and gardening for example. A most wonderful and meaningful read.
  • Sue Russell
    Not so much a formal memoir as a group of autobiographical essays grouped together chronologically. Still, I liked it very much. The part that documents her correspondence with her husband-to-be who was stationed at Los Alamos and secretly working on the A bomb was amazing in itself. I also liked the way she was able to integrate the poems about animals when she wrote about her time at PoBiz Farm in new Hampshire.
  • Kathleen
    Maxine's book would have been far more compelling had she focused on her childhood. The fact that her father was a pawnbroker, and she met her husband so young were details that I would have liked to know more about. Her later life as a poet, finding a home for her family in the country, her animals, and winning awards were all intertwined with her poems.
  • Loraine
    Four essays written by Maxine Kumin at different points in her life tell are most revealing of the elemental truths of that life. Written with pared down prose, The Pawnbroker's Daughter catches the essence of her life and her times. Plus, and this is a big bonus for me because I love this poem--her ode to shit is in this tiny volume.
  • David
    This had some thoughtful poetry in it, and was well written (as one would expect for a renowned poet), though it didn't manage the ever-present danger of memoir (self-indulgence) well at all and fell hard and fast into bourgeois musings about country houses, pets, and neighbors.
  • Sandy
    Enjoyable memoir. Had never read any of her poetry so I'm going to track down some of her work. My favorite part of the book is her description of her life living in New Hampshire far away from crowds of people.
  • Jon
    It was a nice little book. I especially liked reading about her childhood and later in life when they had a little farm in NH with horses and dogs. I had never heard of Maxine Kumin before I picked up this book.
  • Emilie Burack
    Delightful! For Maxine Kumin fans, this is a must read. And for all those "modern day" mothers out there trying to forge a career in writing, Kumin's tales are a gentle reminder of just how far (thank God) we've come.
  • Featherbooks
    Lovely writing about the poet's childhood, romance and long marriage to her great love, some of her poetry laurels like Bread Loaf and being Poet Laureate before there was one, teaching, farming, horses and feminism. A quick read.
  • Mary
    Maxine Kumin was a U.S. poet laureate and won the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry. This final memoir is somewhat disjointed, beginning with her Jewish childhood in Philadelphia and ending on her farm in Vermont. It does make me want to read some of her poetry.
  • Melissa
    I enjoyed hearing about her early life and courtship with her husband. After that it just didn't hang together for me. Lots of talk about horses, stray dogs and mushrooms and the poems she wrote about them.
  • Kara
    This book was easy to get into and a really quick read - enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.
  • Frendy17
    My old English professor. Surprisingly awful.
  • Gail Richmond
    Beautifully written, poet Maxine Kumin's essays about her life and her work create an emotionally moving picture of her world. Well done.